Wednesday 28 April 2021

A short note on Mark's Gospel

I wrote the following in response to an e-mail question asking about some verses in the Second Gospel:

My understanding is that Mark's Gospel is a fragmentary, incomplete, later account of secondhand recollections of some things Jesus did, which the collector ("Mark") did not really understand. 

Mark's Gospel reads like somebody gathered many accounts of Jesus's life and sayings; and recorded them for posterity without trying to explain how they fitted together or what they meant. 

Thus Mark is more accurate than Matthew or Luke (which were apparently compiled from some of the same sources, and/or from Mark itself), in that Mark is not imposing a single interpretative scheme on recollections; but at the same time Mark cannot stand alone. 

Validly to understand Mark, and discern what in it is meaningful or valid and what is not, requires a perspective learned from the Fourth Gospel ("John").


Doc said...

Matthew and John are the definitive gospels. Matthew precedes Mark and was originally written in Hebrew by an educated Jew for Jewish readers. He absolutely assumes his audience understands his narrative, whether they agree with it or not. It is an incredible gospel when properly understood, but unfortunately, most lack the study and understanding required. However, he was not an eye witness. John was. John is concerned with Yeshua as the son of God and what that means for his kingdom and the salvation of men. John is my favorite. Matthew and John together provide a very solid base for who Jesus was and why he said and did things precisely the way he did.

Modern (System) theologians like to "agree" that Mark is primary, obviously because it is the most simple and uncomprehensive. Imagine that. They despise the "Jewishness" of Matthew and the deep spiritual implications of John.

Luke is a fairly accurate narrative compiled by a gentile for a gentile reader. He does not share the same cultural understanding as Matthew. But is straight forward and fairly easy to understand.

My recommendation: Read Luke first. Then study Matthew in depth using Tom Bradford's Dr. Baruch Korman's study on the same site is good, but is very in depth and not for new readers. After you have completed those and have a solid foundation, read John and let the Holy Spirit speak to you.

Mark contains a few more details and adds to the story. If you never read it, IMO, wouldn't make much of a difference.

Doc said...

Another note: although he was not an eyewitness, Luke spent a great deal of time travelling with Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark. He most likely would have met the remaining original apostles with Paul.

Anonymous said...

For a lively perspective, I would recommend Alec McCowen's recitation of the whole Gospel of Mark, which, like David Suchet's complete reading (not all of which I have yet listened to), is available on YouTube.

David Llewellyn Dodds

Bruce Charlton said...

@Doc - Taken overall (rather than looking at particular parts) I find Matthew the least satisfactory of the Synoptic Gospels, because I detect an overall distorting, misleading worldly agenda imposed on what I regard (from the Fourth Gospel) as Jesus's real role and teachings.

But I don't want to go into the other Gospels here and now.

HomeStadter said...

I'm astonished at the idea Mark came after Matthew. Matthew seems clearly to be written going off of Mark, to improve it and fill in numerous important gaps. Who would write or keep Mark if you had already had Matthew?

IMO Mark was originally an oral composition and was only written down later. For this reason it is short and has chiasms throughout, as a mnemonic.

Anonymous said...

I should have thought to recommend before Charles Wood's St.Mark Passion, which it was my joy to sing once, and of which a quick YouTube search discovers a couple loadings of the fine Jesus College (Cambridge) choir recording, and another live recording I have not yet listened to. It is part of a great English church-music tradition, which includes examples of J.M. Neale's looking to its mediaeval Latin heritage as well.

David Llewellyn Dodds

Anonymous said...

Of possible interest: I've just encountered what seems to be a recent reading of the whole of the Gospel of John by David Suchet uploaded on the Westminster Abbey YouTube channel.

David Llewellyn Dodds